26th of October - 11th of November 2012
TM51, Thorvald Meyers gate
Aleksander Stav engages in elaborate sculptural processes, resulting in artwork moving between and beyond paradoxes like truth, relativism, hope and melancholia, knowledge and naivety. His works explore our ever-changing notion of nature, and how it has become one of the most successful products of our time. Technology and nature are traditionally seen as opposed to each other, in Stavs exhibition at TM51, they appear to merge or even trade places. Nature, in the process of being translated into a commodity, is the most excessive sublimation of desire.
Aleksander Stav have exhibited in Scandinavia, UK, US and Brasil. In 2011 he transformed Bergen Kunsthall with a huge Beluga whale as galleon figure. He is currently working on a diverse set of engagements in the fields of painting, sculpture and conceptual architecture.
By Synnøve Vik
Stone sculptures are usually associated with the sculptor, whose medium is stone – a sculptor who creates form out of the formless; an artist who turns non-art into art; who literally designs a piece of nature into an artwork. On the opposing end of the artistic spectrum we find the landscape painter who paints a representation of nature put into context; of a landscape as it appears to us humans through specific perceptions of time and space. In both of these traditions, nature is subject to human control. Aleksander Stavs “stone sculptures” exist in an extension of both these traditions in the sense that Stav turns nature into form while also creating a representation of a landscape. However, an important aspect of his work breaks away from the two traditions: here, nature is rendered without an intentional filter; it is in a sense produced without control.
For this exhibition, Stav has made some molds of a carefully selected boulder. The boulder was found three mil from the center of Røros, direction Femunden. It consists mostly of quartz, one of Norway’s most frequent types of stone. It has a distinct geometric expression and an intensely detailed, beautiful surface, which led the Roman Pliny the Elder to believe that it was permanently frozen ice and the Australian Aboriginals to believe that it was holy.
At no point during the process did Stav himself attempt to acquire the worldviews of natural peoples, nor did he search for his subject in nature. He used digital tools; he searched for nature filtered through images. Stav “travelled” through Norway on a satellite, via aerials, narrowing his search to the West of Norway, Trøndelag, Østfold and Vestfold. Once outside of Røros, he finally found what he didn’t know he was searching for; a boulder. This method poses questions regarding the status of the natural once it is filtered and experiences through these media. Is technology a prerequisite for control, or does it through its confrontation with a geography we cannot really grasp rather agree with the non-controllablility of nature?
Technology also plays a big role in the material process of creating. Stav made five extremely detailed molds of the stone, each consisting of a hundred kilograms of silicone, stiffened epoxy and a glass fiber shell. Moreover, he has developed his own technique of casting flakes of epoxy and carbon fiber, which are then spray painted a matt white. The natural form is thus filtered through a cast and the color white helps us realize that it is not at all the original, “real” stone. The result is five wall sculptures that appear as copies of nature; like freshly made pieces of a constructed landscape. The works ask us to reconsider our relationship to nature and the way we believe in nature once it is filtered through digital technology, then cast and exhibited as art in a gallery.
The French philosopher Jacques Rancière said with reference to contemporary aesthetics that “art is art insofar as it is possible that what is art is simultaneously not art. It is art when its productions belong to a sensory milieu in which the distinction is blurred between that which is and that which is not art.” In modernity, art is radically separated from the rest of the world and art institutions are decisively autonomous, yet it is impossible to define what is art and what is not. Stav’s sculptures are created in this kind of sensory environment – it is art and only art – nevertheless, we find some traces of the non-artistic world of technological genesis and hyper-realistic re-creation of nature.
Nature is uncontrollable and unpredictable. Here, however, it exists within the framework of artistic choices and structures. It is not the stone itself which is given form, but the sculpture is made from a cast shaped by the stone. The stone, nature, remains uncontrolled. Thus the sculptures enter a society where nature stands for given characteristics, usually associated with idyll and freedom, disaster and organic destruction. But once the forms become a copy, the artwork turns towards itself: A dual core is established in the exhibition, as the artist gives form to something outside his realm of control while simultaneously basing the work on something “machinic”, technological tools by far exceeding Man’s abilities. Nature and technology are opposites but here they share the same role as the artist’s “unconscious”; that which is beyond him, but which still allows him to produce the work. Nature and technology, both remaining beyond the control of the artist, express what he doesn’t know he expresses, and thus constitute the authenticity of the work.
 Rancière, Jacques, What Medium Can Mean, Parhhesia Journal 11 2011: http://www.parrhesiajournal.org/parrhesia11/parrhesia11_ranciere.pdf, pp.35.